Common Questions About Spinal Cord Injuries

As of 2019, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCSC) estimates that the number of people with spinal cord injury (SCI) in the United States is around 291,000, but it may be as high as 363,000 people affected. 

In this blog, the Boller & Vaughan team answers your frequently asked questions about spinal cord injuries, such as how they are caused, how they’re often treated, health complications that can arise, and more.

If you are suffering from a spinal cord injury caused by an accident or another person’s neglect or harm in Wisconsin, let the attorneys at Boller & Vaughan help you with your personal injury claim. We’ll fight for the compensation that you need and deserve so you can focus on healing and recovery.

Call our Madison, Wisconsin office at 608-268-0268, or fill out a form online to schedule your free initial consultation.

How Do Spinal Cord Injuries Affect the Body?

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs down the middle of your back. These nerves carry signals back and forth between your body and your brain. When you suffer a spinal cord injury, these signals are disrupted.

A spinal cord injury typically begins with a sudden trauma to the spine that dislocates or fractures the vertebrae. Bone fragments, spinal disc material, or ligaments can bruise, press down on, or tear into your spinal cord tissue, damaging the nerve parts. 

What’s the Difference Between “Complete” and “Incomplete” Spinal Injuries?

Spinal cord injuries are classified as either complete or incomplete. A complete injury means that the spinal cord is unable to send signals below the level of the injury. There is no sensory or motor function in that area; as a result, you are paralyzed.

An incomplete injury means that there is some sensory and/or motor function below the level of injury. This means that your spinal cord is still able to send and receive some signals to and from the brain. 

What Are Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries?

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of SCIs, making up over 39% of cases since 2015. Falls are the second most common cause at nearly 32%. 

Other common causes include acts of violence such as gunshot wounds at 13.5%, sports and recreation activities at 8%, and medical or surgical reasons at a little over 4%.

How Are Spinal Cord Injuries Treated?

Any sudden, significant traumatic blow to the head, neck, or back should be treated as a medical emergency in case of a spinal cord injury. Serious spinal cord injuries aren’t always apparent at first. If it isn’t diagnosed or treated right away, numbness, paralysis or a more severe injury can occur.

Treatment for spinal cord injuries varies based on the severity and extent of the injury. Oftentimes treatment begins at the scene of the injury by immobilizing the spine as quickly and gently as possible for movement and transport. 

At the hospital, an SCI may be treated with surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, remove bone fragments or foreign objects, fuse broken bones, or stabilize the spine. Other treatments include physical therapy to strengthen the body and improve mobility, using assistive or adaptive devices, occupational therapy for fine motor skills and more.

What Health Conditions or Complications Develop from Spinal Cord Injuries?

Complications and health risks can arise following a spinal cord injury. Bladder control and bowel control may be different. Circulatory problems, changes in blood pressure, and breathing problems can occur as well. Weight loss and muscle tone issues are common complications, too.

Sexuality and sexual function can also be affected by an SCI. Muscle or joint pain in other muscle groups is common, as well as nerve pain, particularly in people with incomplete injuries. Coping with changes to lifestyle and function can also bring on depression.

Unfortunately, people who suffer a spinal cord injury are two to five times more likely to die prematurely than people without a spinal cord injury. 

What If My Spinal Cord Injury Was Caused by an Accident? 

If your spinal cord injury was caused by a slip and fall, a motor vehicle accident, or some other incident resulting from another person’s negligence or recklessness, you may be able to recover damages, or financial compensation by filing a lawsuit.

When you file a lawsuit, you can seek damages for:

  • Current and/or future medical bills
  • Visits to your doctor, the hospital, specialists, or clinics
  • Rehabilitation therapy
  • Lost wages while you’re recovering
  • Loss of earning ability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Property damage

If you win your lawsuit, the person responsible for causing the accident and your resulting spinal cord injury will pay for the costs mentioned above. Many cases are settled with insurance companies early, but some do proceed to trial.

How Can an Attorney Help Me?

An attorney can help you file your spinal cord injury lawsuit, handle communication with insurance companies and other parties, and fight for your legal rights on your behalf so you can focus on getting better. Even if your case doesn’t progress to trial, lawsuits can be time-consuming and stressful ordeals. Let an attorney shoulder the burden for you.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a spinal cord injury caused by another person’s actions, contact the Boller & Vaughan team today. Our personal injury attorneys serve clients in Madison and throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Call our office at 608-268-0268, or fill out a form online to schedule an initial consultation. Be sure to follow the Boller & Vaughan Facebook page for more legal resources.


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